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NHS Wales confirms £35m fund to ease winter pressures

Credit: PA

Staff working in the NHS in Wales are gearing up for one of the busiest times of year.

Winter pressures take a massive toll on the service as more people fall generally ill - exacerbated by the colder weather.

Today the Welsh Government has set out how it has prepared the health service is for this coming winter.

Credit: PA

The Health Secretary has today confirmed a £35m fund to ease Winter Pressures.

  • £20m package for the NHS and social care partners in Wales for the winter period.
  • £5m announced on 17 October to help relieve pressure on critical care units
  • £10m announced on 22 October to support sustainable social services this winter.

Vaughan Gething said that Local Health Boards, the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust and Local Authorities have been working over recent months to develop and finalise integrated winter plans.

Integrated winter delivery plans have been received from each health board, which have been scrutinised carefully by my officials, the NHS Wales Delivery Unit and the National Programme for Unscheduled Care.

The Welsh Ambulance Services Trust (WAST) has also developed a national plan that has been considered and agreed by the Emergency Ambulance Services Committee (EASC).

Local plans include additional focus on providing telephony advice to people with urgent care needs, increasing access to services in the community over evenings and weekends and collaborative working with the third sector to support people to leave hospital when they are ready.

– Vaughan Gething AM, Health Secretary

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The Health Secretary also emphasised this year’s Choose Well winter campaign.

The campaign places more of a focus on the role of community pharmacists, as these may be closer to people’s homes and often available at more convenient times.

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In October Vaughan Gething also launched the annual Beat Flu campaign.

The Beat Flu campaign encourages all those who are eligible for the free flu vaccination to get protected.

Credit: PA

A recent survey has revealed that GPs are concerned that pressures on the health service will negatively affect their ability to deliver patient care this winter.

84% of GPs surveyed expressed concern that their workload would negatively affect their ability to deliver patient care this winter.

84%
GPs concerned workload would negatively affect ability to deliver care this winter

We already have a stretched GP workforce, having to work incredibly hard to try and meet patient demand through the year, so it is to be expected that GPs are concerned about what the winter months will mean for patient care.

These results are a stark reminder of the pressing need to boost the GP workforce. The number of GP training places per patient is well below the rest of the United Kingdom, meaning there aren’t enough GPs coming into the workforce. The Welsh NHS needs to build a strong and resilient NHS workforce, including through the recruitment of GPs and other primary care professionals.

This is not going to happen in time for this winter. It will likely be a trying time, both for those working in the NHS and patients trying to access services. We would strongly encourage patients to consider the variety of options available to them in primary care, making appropriate use of valuable NHS resources.

The recent ‘Choose Well’ relaunch highlighted the effective role pharmacists can play in primary care. There are a number of other primary care healthcare professionals who can help patients and these all should be considered. NHS Direct Wales can be a valuable source of information, and we also need to see common sense approaches like at-risk groups receiving their flu vaccine.

– Dr Peter Saul, Joint Chair of Royal College of General Practitioners